Tuesday, 28 January 2014
Cataract Surgery – The Details
You probably know this already, but all my fretting and fear about yesterday's cataract surgery were for naught.
Well, I have been known to believe now and then that there is some kinehara involved and if I'm not afraid in certain situations, they will not go well – that the fear is what warns off negative influences.
Yes, yes. I know. That is stupid superstition but there you are. I am not a superstitious person but I am also not always rational. Thank you for all the lovely good wishes and comments yesterday – they surely must have helped too.
For those of you who asked, here is how it went.
I had arranged for a volunteer to drive me to and from the surgery center. This is a free service of the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center (ACC) They do not charge for this service and you may not tip the driver.
Mine was on time, thorough, caring and conscientious. She had even done a test run from my home to the surgery center the day before to be sure of turns and timing so I would not be late. You can be certain the ACC will get a good-size donation from me for this.
Like me, you have undoubtedly read now and then about how someone's wrong leg – the good one – was amputated by mistake and I was worried for weeks leading up to this surgery that they would mix up my eyes.
I switched to monovision contact lenses 30 years ago and have worn them ever since – one, the left, for close-up work and reading, the other for distance and that is how I wanted my new lenses to be. From the start, I told everyone at every pre-surgery visit that the left eye must be my closeup; the right for distance.
As it turned out, every person I spoke to for any reason at the surgery center yesterday asked me to tell them my full name, date of birth, which eye was being operated on and whether it was my closeup or distance eye. They did this even after a big, black arrow was drawn on my forehead pointing to my left eye.
Obviously, they know what they are doing.
I was settled into a lounge chair in a pre-op room for nearly an hour covered in a warmed blanket. Nice.
A pleasant and experienced nurse asked for medical information I had previously supplied in some forms as she checked my answers again my records on a computer screen and she specifically asked name, birthdate, which eye was to be operated on and told me to point to it.
She checked blood pressure a couple of times, heart rate and inserted a needle into my arm to be ready for anesthesia during surgery. She had booties and a hair cap for me.
Over that hour, she administered eye drops four or five times for dilation and to numb my eye.
The anesthesiologist stopped by – he had telephoned me over the weekend too – to ask some questions (name, birthdate, which eye is being operated on today? Point to it, please) and to explain in detail what would happen during surgery:
Pillows under my knees for comfort. Oxygen flow. Body draped with warm sheets. Forehead taped down to keep me from moving it. Bright lights shining directly into my eye.
He checked my heart rate and respiration and said he would do the same during the surgery which, he confirmed, would last about ten minutes.
The surgeon briefly stepped into the room, too. He asked some questions (name, birthdate, which eye is being operated on today? Point to it, please) and had some reassuring words. Soon, I walked into the surgery under my own steam.
They set me up on a table with all the monitoring and equipment and when all the personnel – five of them – were ready to begin, the surgeon asked, “Name? Birthdate? Which eye are we operating on today? Please point to it.” (Don't forget that big, black arrow was still on my forehead.)
Okay, okay, okay, enough, I thought. But I was grateful, too, they were being careful.
I felt nothing during the surgery. In the center of the bright light shining in my eye were two or three fuzzy red dots and a couple of blue ones. Surrounding those were what looked like swirling water similar to what you see swimming underwater with your eyes open.
It really was just 10 minutes or so. Two nurses stayed with me to go over a page of post-surgery instructions and to give me a "goodie bag” with a pair of quite nice sunglasses and a roll of tape to hold down the eye shield I must not remove, except for eye drops, until the follow-up exam (today).
Here's what I look like. (UPDATE: As Barbara Rogers points out in the comments, I took this shot in a mirror so that my face is reversed and it looks like the shield covers my right eye instead of the left eye where it really is.)
Although after today I can take off the shield while awake, I must wear it while sleeping for one week.
The goodie bag also contained my three types of eyedrops they had requested I bring with me to the surgery center. I had begun using them four days ago and must continue to use them twice a day until halfway through February. Among the instructions for the coming week are:
• Avoid vigorous activity
• Don't lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk
• Don't allow your head to go below your waist for an extended period of time (tying shoes is okay)
• Avoid alcohol for 24 hours
• Avoid swimming pools and hot tubs
• Do not drive until cleared by my doctor to do so
That last item will probably happen at my follow-up appointment today.
I've given you so much detail because I wish I had known all these little things beforehand. It would have calmed me. However, take all the above as no more than a general idea of what will happen in your case.
Eye drops, their dosage and frequency of use might be different from mine. The pre-operative routine at the physician's office and at the surgery center may be different too. Instructions before and after surgery can vary.
As it turned out, the hardest part for me was having been forbidden coffee or breakfast before the surgery. I can skip breakfast for several hours with no particular effect. But coffee?
Without it, I was lethargic, my brain didn't work well, I felt stupid and slow and the first thing I did on arriving home was brew a pot.
I had a short window of drinking coffee time before noon after which I never allow coffee so that there is time for the caffeine to work its way out of my system before bedtime. I never did reach my usual level of energy yesterday.
But when that is the worst to be said for a surgery, life is good.
Cataract surgery is everything everyone tells you it is: easy, short, painless and only four hours after it was done, even wearing the eye shield, I can already see to read on this screen and on paper with amazing, new clarity.
I am eager now for the second eye to be done - in about a month.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Vicki E. Jones: A Float for the Rose Parade